EMC Launches Not-So-Secret XtremIO All-Flash Arrays

NEWS ANALYSIS: XtremIO is a scale-out, all-flash system for storing primary data from sources that include dedicated servers, databases and virtualized environments.

EMC apparently has no clue how to keep secrets about its flash strategy.

Back in May 2012 when it acquired Israel-based XtremIO--it's pronounced "Extreme IO," and yes, it appears that someone doesn't know how to spell very well--everybody in the industry knew all about the acquisition long before it happened.

More than a year ago, at VMWorld in August 2012, the XTremeIO folks demonstrated their prize system under embargo to journalists and analysts, indicating that it would be ready for prime time "soon." "Soon," of course, is a relative term.

Lots of time went by, and XtremIO sort of slipped out of visibility. Surely, the engineers were making sure to get EMC's first all-flash array right. On Nov. 14, when EMC, the world's largest IT storage seller, revealed that its XtremIO was finally coming out, people were hardly surprised because it had been expected for months. And months. And months.

Competitors Knew All About XtremIO

We must note something here: Not only did they already know everything about this product, but no fewer than a dozen competitors--including several Tier 1-type all-purpose IT companies--sent unsolicited comments to eWEEK ahead of time claiming that XtremIO is nothing new, that this type of storage is already alive and well in the marketplace. That, of course, will be a matter for the market to decide.

Like most of its numerous competitors, XtremIO is a scale-out, all-flash clustered storage system for storing primary data from several sources that include dedicated servers, databases and virtualized environments. With workloads becoming larger by the week, faster processing is a highly sought-after commodity. For more details on the news itself, read my colleague Pedro Hernandez's article on this in InfoStor.

Perhaps the key value-add for XtremIO, product manager C.J. Desai told eWEEK, is that it handles metadata much more efficiently than any other system of its kind. This is the chief ingredient in its "secret sauce."

New NAND Flash Architecture

"This is a fundamentally superior architecture," Desai said, "because it was designed from the ground up to leverage flash. It's extremely efficient; we use inline deduplication; no duplicate blocks get stored.

"The metadata (which is about one one-thousandth of the data load) stays in the DRAM. There is no backend re-balancing needed, there is nothing but NAND flash in the controllers, and the data is tiered intelligently."

Each building block, called an X-Brick, was architected so as to guarantee that any IO that is being written or read on the array can leverage all available resources. Very little administration is needed.

X-Bricks are comprised of two controllers, each of which is outfitted with 256GB of memory, and 25 SSDs. Infiniband interconnects ensure fast data movement and linear scalability.

As one might expect, XtremIO is integrated within the EMC ecosystem to provide additional capabilities, ease of use and compatibility. A VCE Vblock Specialized System for Extreme Applications based on XtremIO all-flash arrays is optimal for VDI use cases, Desai said. It provides user computing performance at a lower cost per virtual desktop, which customers can begin ordering by the end of 2013.

Tight EMC, VMware Integrations

XtremIO array management is also integrated with VMware vSphere (VMware is also a member of the EMC family) and accelerated with VMware's VAAI storage APIs. In addition, XtremIO is supported with other EMC IP, including EMC VPLEX, EMC PowerPath and EMC Secure Remote Support (ESRS).

After spending some $425 million in the acquisition, EMC certainly expects XtremIO to be a leader in the all-flash array market, and it may well become one. IDC predicts this market to grow to $1.2 billion in revenue by 2015.

"It's already in high demand," EMC marketing exec Josh Goldstein told eWEEK, "with 10 petabytes of effective deduplicated capacity already sold through our Directed Availability program. The DA program took off faster than we had thought it would."

Other key players in this all-NAND flash storage sector include Fusion i-o, Violin Memory, Pure Storage, SolidFire, Kaminario, Nimbus and Tintri. NetApp, Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle also have all-flash arrays. Go here for more details on XtremIO.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...